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Preschool for special needs students opens to the public in Pleasanton

PLEASANTON — A new preschool that will be for both special education and general education students is now open to the general public.

The iPal Preschool, previously called the Harvest Park Preschool Center, opened this week to the public after serving special education students for 11 years. The district expects that the expansion to both student groups will be beneficial for the children in the program.

“For our special needs children, it provides an opportunity to learn alongside typically developing peers. For our ‘general education’ students, the inclusive setting allows them to appreciate differences, and develop empathy and compassion,” said Patrick Gannon, district spokesman.

The program would be paid for by the Special Education Department, which provides a majority of the funding, and tuition by non-special education students. For three hours a day, three days a week, a 12-week tuition costs a typical student $810.

There were five classrooms for children with special needs ranging from mild to severe. The school can accommodate 18 students three days a week, and eight students four days a week. There already is a waiting list for next year, Gannon said.

The preschool is located at the Harvest Middle School campus at 4900 Valley Ave. For more information, visit the district website. 

 

 

Preschool for special needs students opens to the public in Pleasanton

PLEASANTON — A new preschool that will be for both special education and general education students is now open to the general public.

The iPal Preschool, previously called the Harvest Park Preschool Center, opened this week to the public after serving special education students for 11 years. The district expects that the expansion to both student groups will be beneficial for the children in the program.

“For our special needs children, it provides an opportunity to learn alongside typically developing peers. For our ‘general education’ students, the inclusive setting allows them to appreciate differences, and develop empathy and compassion,” said Patrick Gannon, district spokesman.

The program would be paid for by the Special Education Department, which provides a majority of the funding, and tuition by non-special education students. For three hours a day, three days a week, a 12-week tuition costs a typical student $810.

There were five classrooms for children with special needs ranging from mild to severe. The school can accommodate 18 students three days a week, and eight students four days a week. There already is a waiting list for next year, Gannon said.

The preschool is located at the Harvest Middle School campus at 4900 Valley Ave. For more information, visit the district website. 

 

 

A Perspective on education: Assuring all students receive the education they deserve



SELPA stands for Special Education Local Plan Area, and it is the organization aligned with the Mendocino County Office of Education and all local school districts to assure that children with special needs receive the educations they deserve. Our goal is to provide a full range of inclusive programs to children with disabilities in our county.

Decades ago, it was assumed that people with disabilities could not be productive members of society. From a young age, they were either kept home from school or sent to facilities where their schooling was often woefully inadequate. Even students who were perfectly capable of attending general education classes were not permitted to do so.

Thankfully, things have changed. This change is good for students with special needs and for our society as a whole. Studies show that students who attend class with those who have disabilities often learn to be more tolerant and empathetic. And long-held beliefs about what students with special needs could achieve have changed as those students continue to surpass expectations.

Part of the reason students with special needs were not included in general education classrooms is because scientific studies had not yet revealed the nature of certain limitations. For example, those with physical impairments were assumed to have intellectual impairments, too. We now know the two often have no connection whatsoever.

In fact, a local Mendocino County student with physical impairments attended Stanford University and earned a degree in engineering. He now develops adaptive technology for others with motor handicaps to help provide enriched opportunities for meaningful work and interactions with people in the community. Through inclusion in general education classes, combined with special education services, this young man was able to achieve a level of success that many students only dream of. This is a great illustration of SELPA at work: helping each student reach his or her unique potential.

Our SELPA region encompasses all of Mendocino County, which has three large school districts and several small ones. Ukiah Unified, Willits Unified and Fort Bragg Unified have the most students and therefore more varied resources to meet the needs of students with disabilities. These big districts are committed to providing some regionalized support, which helps our smaller districts that struggle to offer as broad a range of programs and therapies to students.

Sometimes the nature of an impairment requires special schooling. When students are medically fragile or severely impacted by a disability, being in a traditional classroom doesn’t always work well. At times students may be better served by programs and services tailored to meet their specific needs. The goal is always to provide support in what is termed the “Least Restrictive Environment.” This means that we offer a continuum of supports to provide the maximum opportunity for integration with typical peers.

With an Individualized Education Program (IEP), most students with special needs can manage in general education classrooms. For those who cannot, the IEP Team crafts specialized goals and services for the child, based on their assessed needs. Schools collaborate with community organizations such as the Redwood Coast Regional Center and counseling providers so families receive additional support to help their student be successful.

SELPA strives to identify and serve children with special needs early through the Early Start Program. For these infants and toddlers, our team works in concert with families, day care providers, agencies such as First 5 Mendocino, and local pediatricians to help children overcome minor issues like speech impediments, for example, and to make sure children with long-term challenges get support as soon as possible. SELPA also helps young adults transition into employment and independent living at whatever level of autonomy is appropriate.

SELPA’s goal is to assure that education professionals and student families understand and adhere to state and federal laws governing special needs. SELPA employees meet this goal through education, program oversight, and when necessary, dispute resolution.

If you’re considering a career working with children who have special needs, I fully encourage you to pursue it. I can think of few careers that bring as much satisfaction.

Barbara Bloom is the SELPA Executive Director

Special Education Registration, General Education Lottery Open for Waterford Students

WATERFORD, CT – The Waterford Public Schools’ preschool program is accepting registration packets from special education students and lottery entrance forms for general education students for the 2017-2018 school year.

Parents/guardians of special education students are requested to fill out the preschool registration paperwork and return to the Waterford Board of Education office at 15 Rope Ferry Road by May 19 if possible.

Preschool registration information can be found online or by calling 860-444-5852. (To sign up for Waterford breaking news alerts and more, click here.)

There will also be a limited number of spots for general education students in the preschool program. Families interested in being placed in the lottery are asked to fill out the required lottery entrance form.

Please fill out the form found online and return it to the Waterford Board of Education by Friday, May 19. Only families with completed entrance forms will be included in the lottery.

Families of general education students will be notified by June 1 if they have a slot next year in the preschool program.

Image via Shutterstock.

BASD Special Education Liaison presented with Annie Sullivan Award



The Boyertown Area School District has announced that Barbara VanBuskirk, special education liaison and 20-year employee with the District, was presented with the 2017 Annie Sullivan Award during a ceremony at the Berks County Intermediate Unit.

The award is given annually to an individual who has worked to encourage the understanding and promotion of students with disabilities in his or her school or community. The award is named after Annie Sullivan, the renowned teacher of Helen Keller. VanBuskirk was nominated by Marybeth Torchia and Kalyn Bartman, Secondary and Elementary Directors of Special Education.

In their nomination form, Torchia and Bartman wrote, “In working with Mrs. VanBuskirk we can honestly say that we have never worked with someone with as much passion, knowledge, and true understanding of students with disabilities. With each meeting one of us attends with her, we find her to be one of the most valuable assets for our District, its students, and the families for whom she works.”

VanBuskirk has worked in special education for more than 30 years. She began her career in 1975 as a special education teacher in Loudon County, Virginia, and for the past 20 years she has worked in the Boyertown Area School District. As the Transition Coordinator and Special Education Liaison for secondary students and schools, she works with students in grades 7 through 12, as well as students age 18 through 21. Prior to her current position, she worked as a life-skills aide, learning-support teacher, and secondary life-skills teacher.

As a life-skills teacher, VanBuskirk led the way for community-based learning and job skills within the Boyertown Area School District. She advocated for her students to participate with the general education students to attend dances, go to prom, and participate in the senior class trip.

As the Transition Coordinator and Special Education Liaison, she advocates for her students and works collaboratively with families to develop plans for their children as they prepare for life after high school. While transition responsibilities alone are a full-time responsibility, she also serves as a special education liaison, where she is responsible for assisting students who are struggling in their current programs and finding programs outside of the District that can meet their needs and ensuring that supports are in place to guarantee that they become Boyertown Area Senior High graduates.

“Mrs. VanBuskirk is a genuine advocate for students with special needs. Her dedication and caring attitude toward not only the students but their families as well has always been apparent,” Helen Conroy, Emotional Support Teacher at Boyertown Junior High East, wrote in support of Mrs. VanBuskirk’s nomination. “She has a gift for seeing the strengths and needs of each student and has worked tirelessly to ensure they get all of the services that will help them to be successful members of our community.”

“Mrs. VanBuskirk is a shining example of a selfless educator,” comments Dr. Richard Faidley, Boyertown Area School District Superintendent. “She is respected by her peers, loved by the students she advocates on behalf of, and valued by the parents and the community. I admire the way she works with each student in such a caring and compassionate manner, every day, and I congratulate her on this honor.”

Registration Open for Special Education Students in Waterford

WATERFORD, CT – The Waterford Public Schools’ preschool program is accepting registration packets from special education students and lottery entrance forms for general education students for the 2017-2018 school year.

Parents/guardians of special education students are requested to fill out the preschool registration paperwork and return to the Waterford Board of Education office at 15 Rope Ferry Road by May 19 if possible.

Preschool registration information can be found online or by calling 860-444-5852. (To sign up for Waterford breaking news alerts and more, click here.)

There will also be a limited number of spots for general education students in the preschool program. Families interested in being placed in the lottery are asked to fill out the required lottery entrance form.

Please fill out the form found online and return it to the Waterford Board of Education by Friday, May 19. Only families with completed entrance forms will be included in the lottery.

Families of general education students will be notified by June 1 if they have a slot next year in the preschool program.

Image via Shutterstock.

Albany Technical College to hold 2017 Spring Commencement …

ALBANY — Albany Technical College will hold its spring 2017 commencement exercises at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Albany Civic Center. A reception will be held prior to the ceremony in the meeting room of the Civic Center.

Nearly 110 students are set to receive associate’s degrees, almost 300 diplomas, and almost 800 technical certificates of credit. More than 35 students are slated to receive their General Education Development diplomas.

In addition, nearly 60 students will be walking with various honors, including the college’s American Criminal Justice Association Club, Ambassadors, Engineering Club, honors with distinction recipients, National Technical Honors Society, Phi Beta Lambda, presidential scholars, SkillsUSA, Student Fellowship for Christians, Student Government Association and General Education Development.

These students were recognized at the college’s Honors Day program held earlier this week.

The keynote speaker for the ceremony is Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, who is currently serving as the 21st President of Georgia Military College. Commissioned as an infantry officer from the United States Military Academy at West Point in June 1976 with a bachelor’s degree in Engineering, Caldwell continued on to earn his master’s degree from the United States Naval Postgraduate School and from the School for Advanced Military Studies at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College.

Later, he attended the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University as a Senior Service College Fellow. Caldwell was also selected to serve as a White House Fellow, one of the most prestigious fellowships in the nation.

In his almost 13 years as a general officer, Caldwell served at the highest levels of the U.S. Army. Most notably as commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division, commanding general of the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom, commanding general of the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth, and Commander of United States Army North (Fifth Army).

He also served as Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Effects and as spokesperson for the Multi-National Force-Iraq during Operation Enduring Freedom. His combat deployments include Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Operation Just Cause (Panama), Operation Uphold Democracy (Haiti), Iraq and Afghanistan.

Caldwell also served as executive assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, senior military assistant to the Deputy Secretary of Defense, deputy director for operations for the United States Pacific Command, and assistant division commander, 25th Infantry Division. He has also received numerous awards and recognitions, both domestic and foreign, during his 37 years of service in the U.S. Army and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Among the graduates during Thursday’s commencement are six Move On When Ready high school students graduating with associate’s degrees who will continue their education at four-year universities in pursuit of bachelor’s degrees. One of them, Nilkumar “Nil” Patel, will earn his associate’s degree in Electronics and Computer Engineering.

Patel is valedictorian of his class at Terrell County High School and is also the 2017 Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership (GOAL) winner for Albany Technical College. He is set to continue on to the University of Georgia this fall.

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COUNTERPOINT: USC should require a class teaching personal …

As I near the end of my final year at USC, I think it is appropriate to reflect on my time here and consider what might be done to improve the University. Of course, the first thing that comes to mind is the general education curriculum, which undergraduate students must engage in. At USC, general education courses are commonly seen by students as incredibly valuable, an unbelievable waste of time or anywhere in between. This often occurs because students feel like the general education courses they are more or less forced to take often do not correlate with their interests or with their future careers. While I enjoyed nearly every general education class I had the opportunity to take, it is still clear that the University may be able to improve the perception of the general education program by including a topic of universal importance that has so far been lacking coverage: money.

There are certainly many students who have learned how to manage their wealth responsibly, either before or during their time on campus. Particularly prudent students may craft budgets and stick to self-imposed limits on spending money. Others, however, clearly do not. In recognition of the fact that many students may not learn to appropriately handle money early in their collegiate careers, a class teaching fiscal responsibility would be appropriate to include in the general education curriculum.

General education courses serve a very important role in rounding out undergraduate education, making students literate in more fields of study than solely their chosen majors. Classes in history, language, mathematics science and philosophy all advance the excellent liberal arts education that makes universities like USC so prestigious and competitive. This educational curriculum is central to the University’s goal of creating well-prepared and studious thinkers, artists and entrepreneurs. However, fiscal responsibility universally applies to nearly all aspects of student life, yet gets comparatively little official attention. If students are to become responsible members of society upon graduation, this must change.

This proposed money management class could feasibly be made into a one or two-unit course with minimal busywork but still teaches the essentials of fiscal responsibility to younger students. This would concurrently accomplish two major goals: maximizing the utility of the course while also minimizing the burden on students whose majors force them to take substantial class loads in their first few semesters. Furthermore, the class could be made subject to a placement exam, similar to how foreign language courses are currently handled in the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. Under this model, if a student demonstrates that they already have the necessary financial management skills, they would not need to take the course.

In this way, the course would not be a waste of time and money, but instead would be an investment in the futures of future Trojans and the University itself. Current career and financial resources offered at USC, like those at the Career Center and the Financial Aid Office, are certainly helpful and welcome. But the fact is that many Trojans, even those that have family wealth to fall back on, can be irresponsible when it comes to personal finance. The quicker those students can learn how to use their money properly, the better for all Trojans, especially themselves.

One may make the argument that these are skills that students should teach themselves or should pick up over time, and there is merit to that point of view. In an ideal world, teaching young adults enrolled in college how to handle their financial assets would not be necessary. Money management skills and financial responsibility are topics that really should be taught in more elementary tiers of education than at a university. Yet, here we are.

When students impose financial goals and schedules upon themselves that are detrimental to their health and academic performance, one is left to wonder if plain ignorance is the root cause. It may or may not be. At the very least, USC can do its part to invest in the futures of Trojans by showing them the right way to handle money, even if they ultimately choose not to follow sage advice. At least then we will know that it was the student’s informed choice to do so.

USC has the unique opportunity to position itself as the premier guide to student financial responsibility, even if students have an excess of wealth (and especially if they do not). For this reason, the University should consider adding a course on money management to the general education curriculum.

Trevor Kehrer is a senior majoring in political science. “Point/Counterpoint” ran Wednesdays.

South Hunterdon Regional School District to Expand Preschool Program; Local Day Cares to Adjust

Lambertville Public School (Thomas Seymour: CC BY-SA 2.0)

South Hunterdon Regional School District (SHRSD) will expand its preschool program for the upcoming 2017-18 school year to include general education students 3-4 years old on a tuition basis.

In previous years at Lambertville Public School, only special education students were admitted for preschool. Stockton Borough School had a tuition pre-K program, with dismissal at 12:15pm, for general education students through the 2015-16 school year.

Now, however, SHRSD will be collectively offering an “integrated” preschool program, opening up seats to all district 3 and 4-year olds, which includes children from Lambertville, Stockton and West Amwell.

“Administration, parents, teachers, community members, and the BOE have worked to put this program in place.  The regionalization has made this more possible as a result of more personnel/resources being available,” wrote SHRSD Director of Curriculum Geoff Hewitt.

The deadline for families to sign up was March 31, and a lottery was held on April 5 to determine which children would get the available seats. Sixteen general education students will start the program in September, eight in each of the two classes. South Hunterdon will implement one of the four state-approved curricula, Tools of the Mind, into the newly-integrated preschool classes.

Tuition-based pre-K and preschool programs already exist in the county — for example, East Amwell has had an integrated tuition-based pre-K program for 12 years. In Mercer County, Princeton also has tuition preschool for regular education students, albeit at a much higher rate than what South Hunterdon has proposed.

But this expanded offering has made some local private day cares concerned.

Lisa Erxleben, director of Lambertville Academy, which is operated by nonprofit Fisherman’s Mark, acknowledged they met with SHRSD administration and BOE members to discuss how their relationship would proceed with the new district offerings.

“Our experience is that most working families need extended hours, which is why we offer a 7am – 7pm schedule for one price,” according to Erxleben. “Therefore, we will adjust our staffing as needed. But again, our program and the school have always had a remarkably seamless partnership, and there’s no reason for this to change.”

Mt. Airy Happy Time School Owner and Director Jennifer Ruehle saw this coming and noted that most day care profits come from preschool/ pre-K students, not infants or toddlers. Ruehle includes families from Pennsylvania among her clientele.

“I’ve been doing this 25 years, and knew eventually South Hunterdon would be participating. We’ll just try to do our best and make it work,” she said.

Both Ruehle and Diane Strober at Half Pint Day Care and Preschool in West Amwell, questioned whether South Hunterdon would be able to cover the cost of the new program without raising taxes.

“The tax tab is going to be ever-increasing as it’s not a one-time cost. Once it’s in place, it’s in place,” said Strober.

New Jersey public schools are not required to offer preschool services (or even kindergarten) to general education students, but the overall trend has been increasing. New York City enacted “universal pre-K” in 2015 at no cost to families, and this week, Mayor Bill de Blasio proposed free preschool for all NYC 3-year olds. New Jersey has expanded their fully and partially subsidized pre-K programs, though none of these subsidized districts are in Hunterdon County.

New Jersey public schools are required to provide preschool services for special education students in the least restrictive environment, which might explain why many districts have implemented integrated programs when possible.

“The typical New Jersey family with an infant and toddler, earning the state median income of about $85,000, spends more than $20,000 a year on center-based child care, or about 24 percent of their gross income,” reads a December 2013 report by the research and advocacy group Advocacy for Children in New Jersey.

Certain local families may qualify for reduced preschool tuition at SHRSD if they are also eligible for the free/reduced lunch program. Those who meet income eligible guidelines, can obtain a child care subsidy through NORWESCAP Child and Family Services for private area day cares.

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